Saturday, November 12, 2011

How to Handle a Rick Perry Moment

Bowing to the neuroscientists, The Washington Post calls Rick Perry's forever-famous senior moment a "retrieval failure."

I asked professional speaker Thom Singer what advice he'd offer the luckless governor.

Rightly or wrongly, "People are judged by how they speak in public," Singer says.  "We determine the level of a person's intelligence by the way they perform on stage."  

Thinking on your feet is learned skill, Singer insists.  But, because a moment like Rick Perry's "can happen to anyone," he offers public speakers these three tricks of the trade:

Never "wing it."  "Any time you wing it, you're likely to fail.  So don't.  Practice, practice, practice.  The best way is to role-play with someone else."

Keep your written talking points handy.  This is especially wise for times when you have to go "off script."  "If you get derailed, your talking points can get you back on track easily."

Take ownership of your gaffe.  When you have a Rick Perry moment, "don't try to avoid it.  Take ownership of your slip-up right away.  Poke fun at yourself and your audience will judge you favorably."

Postscript: At least one neuroscientist, Dr. David Langer, recommends coffee.
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